Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director, US Term Limits. Just wanted to point out I think it’s fascinating that the folks in this room who have come out in opposition to term limits all seem to be lobbyists. I don’t really think that is a coincidence. I think terms limits actually stymie the effect of lobbyists by bringing in a new crop of officials on a regular basis and not allowing lobbyists to hold control over one incumbent for a very long time. I think there’s an inherent conflict of interest in having so many lobbyists come up and oppose term limits. There are two things I just wanted to note. I did not hear a single example of a local small community that has ever voted down any form of term limits.
I did not hear any example of that and in fact that example really doesn’t exist. Term limits pass everywhere they are on the ballot. I live in a city of about 15,000 people. We have term limits on our city council. There are cities of about 5,000 people that have term limits on their councils and it’s almost insulting to suggest that a community is too small to have the talent pool to find two or three people to stand for school board election every two years. I think they can certainly do that and will definitely enrich the diversity of our government. With respect to the debate on eight versus 12, just like to remind you a little bit of history. In 2005, the Florida Legislature actually placed on the statewide ballot a constitutional amendment that would’ve lengthened the term limits for the state legislators, for you folks, from eight to 12 years.
The public outcry against that measure was so severe that the legislature was actually forced to revoke it from the ballot in 2006 before it could get on. Eight year term limits are very, very popular in Florida. Every law that’s been initiated by the citizens here is for eight years and that’s why I think you should go with that for school boards. I’m going to read a quote now. “If you’re in power for too long, even with the best of intentions, you become stale and your government becomes stale. We want to see new voices and new ideas emerge. That’s why term limits are a really useful thing.” Who said it? Our 44th President Barack Obama. Donald Trump is also a term limit supporter. No, hell hasn’t frozen over.
This is one issue that those two agree on, so do Florida voters overwhelmingly. To be specific, 82% of voters want eight year term limits on school boards. It is without question the most bipartisan issue in our state. When people ask “Well, why eight years?” Well, look at the jobs that already have an eight year term limit. The governor has an eight year term limit. The cabinet has an eight year term limit. State legislators, countless local positions, and the President of the United States has an eight year term limit. If any school board members believe that they need more time to learn their jobs than the leader of the free world, then frankly they’re in the wrong profession and they should resign.
No amount of terms will fix that. Here in Florida, eight year term limits have been the rising tide that lifts all boats. We’re the most fiscally sound state in America. We’ve left behind the era of lawyers and lobbyists cooking up policies in smoke filled room. We now have a citizen legislature that reflects the diversity of our people. Since term limits passed, we’ve elected more farmers, more teachers, more doctors, more business people, more women, and more African Americans. Women are half the population and yet they only account for a quarter of public servants in America, yet new research shows that term limits are helping reverse this trend. According to Samantha Petty, professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the increase in female candidates was 33% larger in states with term limits.
When term limits are present, more women run and they win. This is what John Adams described when he said a legislature should be an exact portrait of the people. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. All you up here should really pat yourselves on the back because you are what the founders envisioned for our country, a citizen legislature. Now, it’s time to apply this same wisdom to school boards. Governor DeSantis has said school boards suffer from the same untamed incumbency that paralyzes Congress. He’s right. School board incumbents have worse turnover than the Soviet Politburo. Their reelection rates exceed 80% and nearly half of them run unopposed meaning many voters don’t even have the power to dethrone their incumbent.
Education is too important to be entrusted to cynical career politicians. We need statesmen and stateswomen with a sense of urgency who can change the system before it changes them. If you want to enrich our democracy, level the playing field, get fresh faces and ideas, we need eight year term limits for school boards. Thank you.